We’re in Wedderburn, 15 kilometres northwest of Ranfurly, which doesn’t really tell you anything, does it? Well, we’re out in the wop wops. That’s what Kiwis call the middle of nowhere. If there was one piece of information I could provide to give you a better understanding of Wedderburn it would be this: Wedder is a medieval word from Northumbria (what is now England) that means “castrated sheep.”
I’m not sure why I think it is important to know that Wedderburn means castrated sheep but it is. So we’re in the wop wops in a place named after a medieval word meaning Castrated Sheep and it is damn cold. Are you getting the picture? No? How about this: There is nothing here but muted green rolling hills which are speckled with white wooly balls that turn out to be sheep. There’s a farm on one side of the road, which is where we’re staying tonight, and a tavern on the other, which was built in 1885, and that’s it.
I am sleeping in a small cottage on the sheep ranch and it is so cold (close to freezing) that the first thing I did was turn on the bathroom heater hoping it might help take the chill off my room. Then I poured myself a shot of bourbon from my flask and sat on the edge of my bed, sipping my bourbon and staring out the window at the purple and orange gloaming over the darkening hills and the red barn across the way.
There’s no noise here except for the distant bark of an unseen dog. It’s not until you’re at a place like Wedderburn that you remember what silence sounds like. It’s startling.
I pour myself another finger of bourbon. It is almost dark now. I hear the crunch of feet on gravel but I don’t see anyone. The dog has stopped barking. It’s about time to change my clothes and head on over to the Wedderburn Tavern for dinner. Soon. But not just yet.